Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Olympic workflow - How much has technology changed in the last 2 years, and how much will it help me in Rio?

It is a little less than 3 weeks before I leave for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and I am doing final testing of all the new equipment I will be taking with me. This testing will help me determine the best settings, the best file formats and the best workflow to deliver images to Team USA faster than ever. And yes, they want the photos REALLY fast!

Just as in previous years, the 2 years in between Olympic Games has provided enough time for technology to advance enough to make a marked difference in my workflow. This is true for the cameras and memory cards and even the storage devices I will have with me. In this blog post, I look at each of the technology advancements that have occurred since the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Since the camera is the single most important piece of equipment that I will be using everyday at the Olympics, I will start with this. I was happy when Canon released the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II a couple of months ago. This new camera brings me big advantages for the Olympics, with many improvements over the preceding 1DX. The dual DIGIC 6+ processors help the camera function and focus faster.  And even more importantly to me, this is the first Pro camera from Canon in many years that goes beyond Compact Flash and offers the new CFast memory card format (along with a CF slot).

Why is CFast important to me at the Olympics? I will be shooting the 1DX Mark II at 14 frames per second, which creates a lot of images. I need to capture all those RAW files (and yes - I shoot all my images in RAW format) with a camera that can clear the files from it's buffer to the memory card as fast as possible. BUT more importantly...after capturing the photos, I want to be able to download them as fast as possible. My deadlines are no longer measured in hours, but minutes. Every bit of time that I can save is huge to me.

Here are the cards I will taking with me to Rio. Lots of Lexar Professional 3500x128GB CFast cards for my primary storage.

Actually, my plan is to write RAW files to both a CFast card and CF card in the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, more for insurance than anything else. It will slow the buffer clear a little bit, but give me the peace of mind knowing that the images are stored in two places. I tested this scenario a couple of weeks ago, and I was able to capture about 800 RAW photos when shooting to a CFast card only. When shooting to CFast and CF, I was able to capture 80 RAW images without any pauses in the camera. Although this sounds like a major speed degradation, I can not imagine any time when I would shoot more than 80 RAW photos in a row. I am going to have a large 256GB CF card in each camera acting almost like an in-camera SSD. I don't ever plan on downloading from the CF cards, since the faster CFast cards will be my primary storage devices.

For the first time, I will be using memory card readers with Thunderbolt connection. The newer Lexar CR2 CFast card reader has both a USB 3.0 connector and Thunderbolt 2 connector on the back. My goal is to have two of these CR2 readers velcroed to the top of my MacBook Pro, and connected using the two Thunderbolt ports.

The one piece of equipment which has not changed since the last Olympic Games is my MacBook Pro. I was hoping that Apple would come out with a new model before the end of July, but that does not look likely at this point. And even if they did, I would probably not have time to get it ready with all the software in time.

Since I mentioned software, I should probably tell you what I plan on using in Rio. Like all my previous Olympics, I am still planning on using a combination of CameraBits Photo Mechanic for all my culling and ranking, and Adobe Photoshop CC for retouching. This has proven successful in the past and I have not found anything new that is faster for my workflow.

After I have captured and edited all of the photos, I need a safe way to store them. I am using a combination of 512GB Lexar Portable SSD units (for daily backups) and Western Digital 4TB drives for the mass backups. And since I want to make sure that my favorite images are stored remotely, for even more peace of mind, I am using remote storage. In the past I have moved those images to my Dropbox account. But even better, now that my Drobo 810n allows for remote access, I am going to be backing up directly to the server in my home studio back in CA. How cool is that?

And now that I have remote access to every digital image I have ever taken, which are all stored on the Drobo 810n (on a combination of WD 8TB and WD 4TB Red drives), I am covered if I have a client who has an urgent need for an image.

Well...there you have it. I think I have covered all the new technology in this blog entry. But as I sit here and look at the words and photos, I am sure that I am missing even more. I guess I will have to give you all an update from the Olympic Games. The clock is ticking!


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Gary N. Blum, DDS, MS said...

How many photographs are you going to trust to a single memory card? Looking forward to your blog again.

Gary N. Blum, DDS, MS

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Gary - I typically would not fill a 128GB, but have gotten close at times. I trust the cards (especially writing to two at a time). I would say that a typical day might have 5000 images. It really depends on what I am shooting. :)

ollephotos said...

Why do you prefer the CameraBits Photo over Lightroom?

Ivan Olle

mcfotosfo said...


I'm absolutely loving your blog. Very informative and entertaining.

When will you get the choice images over to Team USA clients? I'm assuming all the Olympic venues have WiFi or a LAN cable so you can edit and send directly from the venue during or after an event? As for getting images backed up on your Drobo, will that be an evening activity once you are back at the hotel or can you take care of that at the Olympic press facilities as well?

Looking forward to more...

Steve McClanahan

Unknown said...

Uh, I'd think lenses you're planning to take are a pretty important update. The exciting news four years ago, was that you got to shoot with the prototype Canon 200-400 f/4 with 1.4x. How will your lenses change this time, compared to the last Olympics? What lenses do you own that you'll be taking, and which ones do you hope to borrow from CPS at the Olympics?

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Steve - yes - all the Olympic venues have wired and wireless connectivity for us. I will likely back up to the Drobo from each venue as I edit. It will be more efficient that way. Unless I am REALLY crammed for time. :)

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Equipment blog is coming. :)

Rosalinda said...

Thank you Jeff, this is awesome!! I feel like you're taking us to Rio :) ---I enjoy reading your blog and see the amazing photos you take.